Fiction Previews, Oct. 2013, Pt. 2: Top Commercial Fiction, Including Christmas Stories from Andrews, Macomber, & Thayer

Andrews, Mary Kay. Christmas Bliss. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9781250019721. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250019738. CD: Macmillan Audio. CHRISTMAS FICTION
New York Times best-selling author Andrews draws characters from her three popular Savannah novels—Savannah Blues, Savannah Breeze, and Blue Christmas—to craft a blissful Christmas novella. As the holidays loom, so does antiques dealer Weezie Foley’s marriage to chef Daniel Stipanek. But why can’t pregnant maid-of-honor BeBe Loudermilk marry her live-in beloved? Sparkly stuff for the holidays and a big tour.

Baker, Jo. Longbourn. Knopf. Oct. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780385351232. $25.95. CD: Random Audio. HISTORICAL
In centuries past, servants were barely seen or heard—and never seriously acknowledged in literature. Now we have Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey. Here, Baker visits one downstairs that will intrigue many readers—that of the Bennet household in Jane Austen’s much-loved, relentlessly imitated Pride and Prejudice. Orphaned housemaid Sarah is just beginning to regret the limits of her horizons when a new footman arrives, the militia marches into town, and a former slave working at nearby Netherfield Hall starts paying her court. This is British author Baker’s second novel to appear here, after the much-praised The Undertow (“emotionally powerful,” New York Times Book Review), also an historical.

Chiaverini, Jennifer. The Spymistress. Dutton. Oct. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780525953623. $26.95. HISTORICAL
As with Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, Chiaverini temporarily casts off her popular “Elm Creek Quilts” series to reimagine the life of a crucial player during Civil War era. Elizabeth Van Lew may have been born into a slave-holding family in Virginia, but she was educated by Northern Quakers and threw her support to the Union when her home state seceded. Van Lew helped Unoin prisoners escape from the notorious Libby Prison in Richmond, VA, and ran an extensive spy ring that even reached into the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Some real thrills, then; great for reading groups.

Erickson, Carolly. The Spanish Queen: A Novel of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781250000125. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250038388. HISTORICAL
How charming that the promotion describes Erickson’s novels as historical entertainments, harkening to the “entertainments” of the Elizabethan era about which Erickson writes so prolifically and reminding us that, as she’s also an author of nonfiction and biography, she knows her stuff. Here Erickson portrays Catherine of Aragon as tough-minded and daring as she deals with marriage, widowhood, invading Scots, and Henry VIII.

Dallas, Sandra. Fallen Women. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781250030931. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250030948. HISTORICAL
Once Denver bureau chief for Business Week, the author of New York Times best sellers like True Sisters must have found her reporting skills coming in handy as she depicts her heroine digging up information about her dead sister. New York socialite Beret Osmundsen learns of Lillie’s death in a cryptic telegram from the family telling her not to bother returning home. But when she chances on a scandal sheet detailing the ugly murder of the prostitute Lillie Brown in a Denver brothel, she determines that the victim is her Lillie and that the murderer must be brought to justice. A fall from grace in the midst of 1880s Gilded Age excess; library marketing.

Fletcher, Martin. Jacob’s Oath. Thomas Dunne Bks: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781250027610. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781250027603. CD: Macmillan Audio. HISTORICAL/SUSPENSE
Fletcher, a multi-award-winning special correspondent for NBC News and winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Walking Israel, has also written fiction; The List was selected as the One Book, One Jewish Community title for Philadelphia. So expect some grounded storytelling here. As Holocaust survivors Jacob and Sarah wend their way home with millions of others at the close of World War II, Jacob is deflected from his newfound love and hopes for the future by his determination to avenge the murder of his brother by a concentration camp guard called the Rat. History and moral debate but also being pushed as a thriller.

Grazer, Gigi Levangie. Seven Deadlies. Blue Rider Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9780399166730. $24.95. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. POP FICTION
A ninth grader on a full scholarship at a fancy private school in Beverly Hills, Mexican American Perry Gonzalez aspires to something more than the cramped apartment where she lives with her mother. Perry is an aspiring writer, aiming for Bennington, and here we get her seven deadly stories—all drawn from her observations of the privileged teens around her. Greed, for instance, is evoked by an ambitious youngster with a Ponzi scheme that could wreck his own grandmother, while lust surfaces dangerously at a private concert involving the Judas Brothers. The best-selling author of The After Wife goes for cross-generational appeal; with rights sold to MTV Films.

Lehrer, Jim. Top Down. Random. Oct. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781400069163. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780679603504. HISTORICAL
Would JFK have survived on November 22, 1963, had secret service agent Van Walters not ordered the removal of the parade car’s bubble top, designed to protect the President if it rained? That’s the question plaguing Walters, who’s literally being destroyed by his guilt. Reporter Jack Gilmore steps in, convincing Walters’s daughter to help him prove what would have happened had the top stayed on. An obvious 50th anniversary tie-in and the 21st title from the former executive editor and anchor of NewsHour on PBS.

Macomber, Debbie. Starry Night: A Christmas Novel. Ballantine. Oct. 2013. 256p. ISBN9780345528896. $18. CHRISTMAS FICTION
The queen of romance is back with a Christmas standalone starring disgruntled gossip columnist Carrie Slayton, who really wants to be a serious journalist. When she discovers the whereabouts of the famously reclusive Finnegan Dalton, whose book about living in the Alaskan wilds has hit the best sellers lists, she sees an opportunity to jump-start her career. But meeting Finn in the snowy wilderness during the holidays makes her rethink her decision. With a “Twelve Days of Debbie” social media campaign and Christmas downloadables available on Macomber’s website and social media channels, which should get everyone in the mood.

Ragen, Naomi. The Sisters Weiss. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780312570194. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429957793. POP FICTION
An American who has lived in Jerusalem for decades and has been voted one of Israel’s most popular novelists, Ragen here offers the story of sisters Rose and Pearl Weiss, who grow up in an ultra-Orthodox family in 1950s Brooklyn. Caught leading a secret life after she begins questioning the strictures of her upbringing, Rose guiltily agrees to an arranged marriage, then defies her family so boldly that all ties are cut. Decades later, Rose’s niece Rivka learns about the family black sheep and seeks her out. A big-reading-group push.

Steel, Danielle. Winners. Delacorte. Oct. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780385343220. $28. POP FICTION
A competitive skier, 17-year-old Lily Thomas always was a winner—but then a terrible chairlift accident left her paralyzed, robbing her of her Olympic dreams. Meeting Teddy, whose injuries are even worse than hers, gives Lily a newfound will to live fully. The story limns Lily’s relationship not just with Teddy but with her wealthy father, who has raised Lily alone since her mother’s death and is devastated to see his only child so sorely tested. Steel’s January release, Until the End of Time, debuted at the top of the New York Times best sellers list; expect more of the same, though it’s touching to see her working with a younger, damaged heroine.

Stepakoff, Jeffrey. The Melody of Secrets. Thomas Dunne Bks: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781250001092. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250022714. POP FICTION
A playwright and novelist (e.g., the nicely received Fireworks over Toccoa) who has written for Emmy Award–winning series like The Wonder Years, Stepakoff tells the story of a young violinist named Maria who shelters an American pilot named Cooper shot down over her country at the end of World War II. Fifteen years later, they meet again in the American South, where Maria is living with her husband, a German scientist working for the U.S. space program. Cooper has been assigned to check up on the program and the scientists running it, which leads him to some unpleasant truths that could ruin Maria’s life. With a reading group guide.

Thayer, Nancy. A Nantucket Christmas. Ballantine. Oct. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9780345545350. $18. CHRISTMAS FICTION
The author of Heat Wave takes us to the beach in winter, when Nantucket is also a delight—especially as the famous Christmas Stroll winds through its charming, bedecked streets. It’s not so delightful for island newcomer Nicole Somerset, however, since the holidays also bring stepdaughter Kennedy, who can’t accept her parents’ divorce. There with her husband and three-year-old, pregnant Kennedy makes every effort to wreck Nicole’s Christmas plans. Then Kennedy’s oh-so-elegant mother shows up. Christmas downloadables and Christmas-themed giveaways to make readers feel jolly; Thayer’s Nantucket will never look the same.



Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.